Speeding The Withdrawal In Iraq
I know that the fate of 140,000 troops half a world away isn't "in the news" at the moment, but we may be accelerating withdrawal in Iraq.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said today that he sees "some chance of a modest acceleration" of U.S. troop withdrawals from Iraq.
Gates, returning from a trip to Iraq, told reporters aboard his plane that perhaps one combat brigade would come out of Iraq ahead of schedule. He did not give a precise timetable.
Gates said that Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. general in the country, told him that the security situation in Iraq is better than expected.
President Obama has announced plans to withdraw American combat forces from Iraq by Aug. 31, 2010, leaving 30,000 to 50,000 U.S. troops in advising and training roles until the end of 2011.
Kevin Drum thinks that recent tensions between Iraqi security forces and US troops could be a reason for this. But this is a modest acceleration, basically an extra brigade by the end of the year. Looks like a standard ROI to me. It's clear that Iraqi commanders and the political class have asserted a measure of control over their own country, and that's a good thing. But if it were really the case that American forces were hassled every time they tried to fight, they'd be leaving sooner.
Meanwhile, the legitimate problem in Iraq concerns the Kurdish-Arab civil war that could break out within a matter of months, particularly over control of Kirkuk. I don't think US forces have much of a role to play in that, but it could entrench them further in the conflict if the violence spreads from the north into Baghdad. I'd love to see more discussion on how to stop that from happening, because I fear it's inevitable.